June 14, 2022
...Rosalia blinked. But when her vision recovered, she was no longer in the closed and gloomy theater in which she had chosen to spend her afternoon. Its four walls had been replaced by rows of trees that spread out for as long as she could see. Its high and ornate ceiling had given its place to the afternoon sky. The girl desperately tried to locate even one of its plush seats but to no avail. An icy wind stirred her hair, making what she didn't want to believe too real to deny.
"I'll see you tomorrow, right?" a voice came from above, "We're firm on eight."
"Excuse me?", Rosalia's shaky words echoed through the dark forest.
Rosalia's eyes moved from one tree to another looking for that voice. It sounded incredibly familiar but the source remained untraceable. Her attention fell upon the branches. Like fruit ripening in spring, countless masks hung from each tree. Each one was different, some were small, some large, some white, some multicolored, some with gold details, and some with silver. Some had large noses, with nostrils wide enough to suck in ten times more than those of a human. Some had vicious eyes, pupils empty, waiting for someone to fill them by wearing the mask. Some had smiles, some had sad expressions, some still had animal mouths and ears. But all of them were hanging from the trees with colorful silk ribbons.
"Sure," another voice, sweet and cheerful as a Christmas bell, reached her ears, "Don't worry, we'll be there."
The voices came from above, but there was nothing alive in the forest to make them.
Nothing alive, Rosalia thought again.
Reluctantly she approached one of the countless trees. She stood up on her tiptoes and tried to pull down one of the masks. But no matter how much she dragged it the mask would not leave its shelter. Rosalia was about to try to break the branch, bringing the mask to a height where she could examine it up close, but the first voice caught her attention again.
"Guys where are you? I've been waiting for an hour!" it seemed to come from closer this time.
"Uh...we're running a little late," the other voice replied, "Don't get hysterical."
The girl's breaths stood in her throat as her eyes followed the unearthly voices again. Her eyes dropped into the masks of the adjacent trees and waited, ready and patient as a cat’s. Another breeze caressed her cheeks, bringing tears to her eyes that she struggled to keep open. Slowly, the masks swirled, not necessarily because of the wind. By now they were all looking in her direction.
"No, they're my friends," the familiar voice came from her hand this time.
Rosalia turned her head towards the mask she was holding, but it no longer had its old white color and elaborate designs. Instead, its features had been modified to mirror Rosalia's. Same cheeks, same eyes, same nose...same mouth.
"It's my fault," the mouth articulated.
Rosalia released the mask. Her feet instinctively carried her away from the strange object. The branch, which had been bending by now, returned to its normal position, causing the mask to rotate in the air before returning to its original slight swaying under the wood.
"I exaggerate," the mask said again, its lips forming the words more clearly than any actor's.
"How...", Rosalia started to say, but as her voice echoed in the clearing, she realized why the mask's voice was so familiar. It was none other than her own voice.
Suddenly the atmosphere around her was filled with other voices as more and more masks began to come to life. One after another, in trees near and in trees far away, they turned to her and offered familiar words in familiar voices.
"Don't be like that."
"Come on. Only one day you can give me the house"
"Oh, your book? Yes, take it. Sorry, I tore it up a bit."
The more she listened to them, the more clearly Rosalia recognized them. They belonged to her friends, to some of the closest people in her life. Unlike the mask that possessed her own voice, the masks that mimicked her friends' voices were nothing like them. They retained their porcelain faces and none of them used exclusively one voice.
"They are my friends," Rosalia's mask whispered faintly, drawing the girl's attention again. The mask had shrunk to be the same size as a palm. The eye holes had narrowed to the shape of crescents, the hollow side down. "It's my fault. I'm too much," she repeated.
Two tears rolled from the dark eyes of the mask. They slid down the chiseled cheeks of the mask and dripped onto the scruffy grass. But they never burst like water. Instead, they turned into two small diamonds and fell shimmering among the green shoots.
A loud gust of wind whistled through the trees. It snuck between Rosalia's dress and wrinkled it, dragging her a little in its path as well. It was unexpectedly warm and carried a sweet scent of flowers as it traveled through the forest. The masks rattled at its touch, their voices hushed in its wake. A clear pathway opened up between them and the leaves that covered it were rising and turning at the wind's command. Rosalia looked behind her, away from the path that the world she had chosen to explore was leading her. But the forest beyond her was now dark. The spot from which she had entered this strange world was no longer visible. The alabaster slabs of the road invited her to the truth she longed to know, and the sweet fragrance carried by the air from the same direction carried a sense of security. She made a decision within herself: she would not return to oblivion.
She followed the path of the trail. The masks around her grew more numerous the farther she went, and greeted her with even more bitter memories of the persons to whom their voices belonged. Now and then, that wind would ruffle her hair and silence the voices around her.
Soon she reached the end of the forest. Beyond the trees stretched a vast plain. In the middle of it, a picnic basket on a colorful blanket. Rosalia seemed to hesitate for a moment, but finally approached it and sat down. The voices that had been tormenting her returned, voices that now seemed to emerge from the basket that instead of food was filled with those now familiar masks. This time, however, their bitter words were mixed with some sweet ones as well.
Suddenly, without any warning, the voices became silent. Something, she wasn't sure what, made her turn her gaze to the opposite side of the one she had arrived a moment ago. An indeterminate figure was coming towards her...
TO BE CONTINUED...
Photography by the Photography Team of TEDxAUTH 2022 #PHOTOEPISODES
They call her Jane. Despite the namesake she has nothing to do with ministers and she is far less cringe (well, the bar was already low). She studies Physics in AUTH and, as expected, her mind is burnt out. She likes music and literature. She is often said that her eyes shine when speaking about something she likes (particularly the characters of the book she keeps postponing). She looks scary from afar, but once you meet her you understand the appreciation she shows to her friends and that she overthinks their birthday presents.
Born in Thessaloniki in the middle of summer. She is supposedly studying law but mostly she is spending her time planning trips that will probably never happen and searching for the cheapest plane tickets options. She loves keeping up with series that last multiple seasons and is watching The Office any chance she gets. The only reason for her to wake up early in the morning is to attend a horse-riding class or to catch a flight.
Born and raised in Kilkis, but her imagination has convinced her that she has lived in many countries around the world. Spends most of her free time watching TV shows, while adopting the personality and behavior of her favorite characters. The combination of perfectionism and laziness that characterize her will eventually be her destruction. Chocolate, wine, coffee and pizza is what she is made of.
Born and raised in London, his life story has seen him move to Canada, Cyprus, and now Greece. Supposedly he studies medicine but most of his time is spent discovering the hidden gems thessaloniki has to offer, such as cool cafes or cheesecake bakeries, and reminiscing his childhood through finding the snacks he grew up with at the pantopoleio.